In the seventh season of Australian Idol there’s been a fair bit of change. New judge, new musical director, trimmed down format and a single host, now identified by his full name.
Andrew Gunsberg says he feels like he is being himself for the first time on television since his days on Channel [V].
In a solo role on the Idol stage, this year he is more inclined to question judges, a progression he says is for the benefit of viewers and contestants.
“When they gave me the job back in 2003 they said ‘You should be the voice of the person sitting on the couch.’ And I don’t think I’ve done anything more than that,” he told TV Tonight.
“Some of these kids are really young. I want to be sure that what we’re doing is making sure that we’re not just throwing out a line for the sake of a laugh, and just leaving it at that. Go right ahead and do that, but make sure you give the kids something to go on.”
During the semi-finals, Gunsberg challenged Marcia Hines on a comment about soul roots. He defended a 16 year old contestant who had just been criticised by Dicko with a stinging line.
“You look like you’re wearin”g you mother’s frock and playing with her CD collection,'” he recalls. “Great line but what’s she going to get from that? Where’s the advice? Clearly Aliqua’s got a great voice but she needs direction. That’s why I said, ‘What do you mean, Dicko?’ Then he clarified it and she said, ‘Ohh right I get you.’
“I just wanted to make sure she had something to go on. Unfortunately she didn’t get through but at least she had been given advice,” he says.
“If I’m doing anything it’s to help the judges be clear. In no way am I trying to negate what the judges are saying. In no way am I trying to say I know more than the judges. Absolutely not.
“Trust me I would have been on stage a hell of a lot more if everytime I disagreed with what the judges said I came out there and defended them.”
Gunsberg says any shift is a natural progression from his duties with former co-host James Mathison.
“It’s a very difficult thing to have equal balance coming into the camera from two hosts at once. I’d like to think Jim and I got it more right than any other on-air team in a long time. He and I worked very closely together. We’re great mates and I’m sure people saw that on TV,” he says.
“To be doing it alone is great. But of course I miss Jim. I almost see it as doing a new job.”
With the solo hosting he is also reinventing himself from ‘Andrew G’ back to his rightful surname.
“I became Andrew G in 1998. I was 24, doing the afternoon shift at SAFM in Adelaide and my Program Director said ‘Gunsberg? Adelaide? Nahh, Andrew G!’ He was the first person to ever call me ‘Andrew G.’
“But it’s 11 years later. I’m married, natural hair colour, it’s a rebirthing, a whole new world!” he laughs.
With the departure of Mathison, Gunsberg says all the executives ‘at the pointy end of the building’ firmly believed in his abilities to take on Idol alone. Bolstered by that vote of confidence, so far he is filling the brief and enjoying inheriting himself. As well as putting his stamp on the Idol brand he is making appearances on The 7PM Project, Good News Week and a much-publicised emergency radio gig on 2DAY FM.
“The biggest compliment anyone can give me is when they meet me and say, ‘I really thought you’d be different when I met you.’ Which means I’m doing my job right and being myself on television.”
Australian Idol airs 6:30pm Sundays on TEN.